The Illinois College of Optometry has a rich history. It adopted its present name in 1955, even though it has provided ophthalmic education continuously since its beginnings in 1872 as the Chicago College of Ophthalmology and Otology. Founded by Dr. Henry Olin, a noted eye and ear specialist, its goal was to expand the educational level of physicians in these specialized areas. Dr. Olin was later joined by Dr. James Burton McFatrich, a prominent physician specializing in eye diseases, who was the developer of Murine eye drops. In 1891, the College was renamed the Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology (Northern Illinois). By 1898, otology had been deleted from the curriculum. In 1907, another school, the Needles Institute of Optometry, was founded in Kansas City, Missouri by Dr. William Bray Needles and was the first institution to bear. The newly adopted term of optometry. This school relocated to Chicago in 1926, where it merged with the Northern Illinois program to become the Northern Illinois College of Optometry. The College expanded its curriculum in 1938 and was accredited that same year by the newly formed Council on Optometric Education. The Monroe College of Optometry was founded in Chicago in 1938 offering a program leading to the Doctor of Optometry degree. The institution's name was changed to the Chicago College of Optometry in 1947. In 1955, the Northern Illinois College of Optometry and Chicago College of Optometry merged to form the Illinois College of Optometry, relocating to its present site shortly after the merger.
Today, the Illinois College of Optometry provides optometric education to students with academic and clinical training designed to prepare them to meet the demands of current and future optometric practice. The institution also plays a prominent role in the local community by providing eye care through the Illinois Eye Institute and at satellite locations in the metropolitan Chicago area, and at the College's affiliate at the University of Chicago. College programs also include various outreach programs affiliated with the Easter Seals Society of Metrop olitan Chicago Inc., and the Chicago Public Schools, and through public vision and health screenings conducted at various locations throughout the city, such as at public and private schools and health fairs.
The first buildings constructed on the College's campus were completed in the mid-1950's and were enlarged and remodeled in 1970. During the period 1983-85, the College more than doubled its physical plant to approximately 300,000 square feet to form a unified educational and patient care complex. The 1983-85 expansion included a highly adaptable Lecture Center which converts from four audio visual independent modular lecture halls, each seating more than 150, into a single lecture hall with a capacity of approximately 640. Another major component of the expansion included the library; the library is about to embark upon a new remodeling project in 2014. The library offers wireless and wireless printing, and provides its students, faculty, alumni and staff with print and electronic databases and materials specific to the areas of optometry and ophthalmology. Copies of many historical yearbooks from many of the institutions mentioned above are included within the library's print collection.